Our latest conservation successes - September 2021

Welcome to our regular update on the progress we are making together to help people and nature thrive. As you will see, there’s plenty to celebrate this month – from the positive steps towards reversing the loss of nature to ongoing efforts to tackle the climate crisis. Enjoy the read!

MOMENTOUS MOVES FOR A NATURE POSITIVE FUTURE

More and more people around the world understand that we must stop destroying the natural world we all rely on for our well-being and survival – and start restoring it. In recent weeks, we have seen some hopeful signs in our efforts to achieve a “nature-positive” future. These include seriously important commitments made at a WWF-backed event, with strong participation from world leaders, that took place alongside the annual UN General Assembly meeting. Among the many announcements made at the event was a US$5 billion pledge to support nature conservation from nine organizations, and a commitment by 75 financial institutions, with assets worth €12 trillion, to protect and restore nature through their finance activities and investments. This momentous news comes just days after many governments and NGOs, including WWF, came together to support global action against nature loss at the IUCN World Conservation Congress – one of the world’s most important nature conservation events. More than 90 world leaders now support a global goal to reverse nature loss by 2030. But these commitments must be matched by action – and every one of us can play our part in making this happen.

TAKING ON THE CLIMATE CRISIS

There is no time to lose. Urgent action on the climate crisis is needed for the sake of people and our wonderful natural world. With the COP26 UN global climate conference taking place next month, we have been calling for increased ambition to limit warming to below 1.5°C – the point at which catastrophic climate change becomes inevitable. So we welcome news that the WWF-backed Science Based Targets initiative (SBTi) – a global body that works with businesses to set emissions reduction targets in line with climate science – will in future demand much more ambitious targets from the companies it works with. WWF has also been assessing the proposed contributions of 16 countries in the Asia-Pacific region to tackling the climate crisis – holding the countries to account and shining a light on what still needs to be done. In further good news, our new report shows how countries are increasingly recognising the value of nature-based solutions to in their efforts to address the climate crisis. These involve a range of measures, ranging from forests storing carbon to mangroves protecting against rising sea levels. 

DEMAND GROWS FOR OCEAN PLASTIC ACTION

We’ve long campaigned for a global treaty to stop 11+ million tonnes of plastic pouring into the oceans each year – a threat to people and wildlife around the world. The pressure from WWF and others keeps growing, with over 2 million people signing a petition calling for action and 100+ countries supporting a global treaty. And further progress has been made in recent weeks, with the issue taking centre stage at a UN conference on marine litter and plastic pollution attended by government ministers. Over 20 leading financial institutions announced their support for a treaty ahead of the conference, joining world-famous brands such as Coca-Cola, Nestle and Unilever who are already demanding action.  A new WWF-commissioned report has further strengthened the case against plastic pollution – showing the huge cost to people and planet. While plastic appears to be a relatively cheap material to produce, the report explains that the price fails to take account of harmful impacts ranging from wildlife becoming caught in fishing gear to potentially disrupting the ocean’s ability to store climate-warming carbon.

‘AMAZON OF EUROPE’ PROTECTED

Some fantastic news from Europe! Three rivers stretching 700km through five European countries (Austria, Croatia, Hungary, Serbia and Slovenia) and a total area of almost 1 million hectares in the so-called ‘Amazon of Europe’ have been declared a biosphere reserve by UNESCO. This designation is great news because it means that this important environment, which sustains an extraordinary diversity of wildlife and supports the livelihoods of 900,000 people, becomes the largest river-based protected area in Europe. Efforts will now be made to protect nature and ensure its sustainable use – supporting wildlife ranging from critically endangered sturgeons to more than 250,000 migratory birds a year, while benefitting people who rely on it for drinking water, flood protection and more. The creation of the world’s first five-nation biosphere reserve is the result of many years of dedicated work by WWF and partners.

WWF RESPONDS TO MEDITERRANEAN WILDFIRE DISASTER

Devastating wildfires continue to afflict many areas around the world, the result of persistent drier weather caused by climate change and harmful human activities such as accidental burning and forest clearance.  In the eastern Mediterranean, Greece and Turkey have been ravaged by hundreds of wildfires, with green forests reduced to ashes, people’s farms and homes lost in the flames, and thousands of species put at risk. Thank you so much to our supporters around the world who have been donating to the emergency appeal we launched in response – backing our efforts in these countries to help firefighting responses, rescue and rehabilitate wildlife, and prevent future fires. Elsewhere in the world, we have also been supporting firefighting efforts in the Yakutia region of Russia where 17m hectares of forest have been destroyed; and our work continues in Australia and across Latin America to help safeguard people and nature from the wildfire menace. 

EXPLORERS LEARN ABOUT COLOMBIA’S NATURAL TREASURES

The forests and grasslands of Colombia’s Cordillera de los Picachos National Park have been protected for 50 years – yet it’s been impossible to learn more about its wildlife due to armed conflict. As the country emerges from this violent shadow, a WWF-backed expedition recently visited the park, with individuals from local communities, former guerrilla group members, and biologists all coming together. They found a breathtaking diversity of life, including 376 butterfly and 36 bat species, and even discovered a new plant species from the Philodendron genus. The expedition was carried out as part of the Protected Areas and Peace project, which seeks to improve the management of six Colombian national parks, better the living conditions of local communities in and around these protected areas, and contribute to peace efforts. This project is undertaken by WWF and partners, and supported by Germany’s International Climate Initiative.

CALLS FOR ACTION

  • Hydropower dam threat: A new WWF-led study found that 260,000km of free-flowing rivers would be lost if the planned hydropower dams were built. The proposed dams would collectively generate less than 2% of the renewable energy needed by 2050 to keep global temperature rise below 1.5⁰ C.
  • Need for nature positive: A new WWF report supports our calls for action to restore nature, revealing that 39 million new jobs could be created if governments reallocated just one year’s worth of subsidies that currently harm biodiversity to a nature-positive stimulus instead.

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